The demand for time-critical shipments did not develop overnight. For his part, Miller has been working to move away from ad hoc emergency response to a more strategic approach. Much of his focus in recent years has been on the development of planned and standardized processes.
“A few years ago, time-critical was still, to some extent, very hands-on, very manual, with individual offerings for each inquiry that we got,” he said. “Now we have solutions that are partly integrated in our customers’ planning for production logistics, and [procedures for] how critical parts move to factories or to technicians in the field.”
A key element in the growth of the time-critical shipment business has been digitization – particularly the automation of the booking process, which shifted online two years ago, making the entire process visible, Miller said. This allows time:matters and its partners to react faster and deploy solutions more quickly. “With digitization, you can develop scalable solutions, and your employees are free to deal with more complex tasks or with new enquiries,” he remarked.
With greater visibility also comes a greater ability to intervene rapidly if something goes wrong. MNX’s Martins recalled shipping a critically important human blood sample from Eastern Europe to the U.S. that did not go exactly like clockwork for its client, iCAN Integrated Cell Therapy Network. At first, the sample moved smoothly on its proritized route until it reached the European hub through which it was to connect to its U.S.-bound flight, he said. But as the aircraft departed on the second leg of the journey, the MNX agent, who was following the shipment via a GPS monitoring device, noted that the shipment was still motionless at the gate.
With the help of the airline cargo supervisor, the MNX courier managed to retrieve the blood sample shipment from a baggage cart at the gate and drove it to another terminal just in time for an alternate flight that had been identified and booked as soon as the rogue package was relocated. Upon arrival at the U.S. airport, another MNX courier collected the package and drove it to iCAN’s destination, two hours away. The sample was three hours late, but still viable, Martins said.
MNX measures airlines’ on-time performance. If shipments are routed over a hub, it looks at connectivity statistics. For instance, “next flight out” is less important than finding the “best flight out,” which takes in elements like weather conditions and aircraft type used. “If there was a delay, what contingencies to they have to minimize the impact of the delay?” Martins said. “Do they understand if you have an organ for a transplant that someone has to walk that to the plane, or do they send it out with the rest of the cargo and hope it works?”